Saturday, October 31, 2015

Math Work Spaces

This year we have a new math curriculum in the Snohomish School District.  We are using the Bridges curriculum.  I have to say, I am really liking it so far.  It's developmentally appropriate for kindergarten and has a lot of fun games that provide practice time for the kids.

Every day we start our math time with a whole class mini-lesson.  After the mini-lesson, we head off into Work Spaces.  Each table in our classroom becomes a Work Space and the kids have jobs to do.  

Here is a game where the kids spin the spinner and practice writing the number they spin.  We are working on proper number formation and always starting to write our numbers at the top.

We use write and wipe markers on laminated sheets.

Here's another station where kids work with partners to play a game where they are adding numbers to total 5.

One of our newest Work Spaces is our pattern activity.  Kids build patterns and then document their pattern by coloring it onto their recording sheet.

One of the favorite Work Spaces is Spill the Beans.  Kids start with five beans and spill them onto the table.  Then they record how many red beans they have, again focusing on correct number formation as they are writing.

So far, Math Work Spaces have been a hit in kindergarten!  The kids are enjoying them and learning so much every day!

Happy learning!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Book Character Day

Welcome to Book Character Day!

Caterpillars explore in the sensory table.

Cheetahs make cards for their mommies.

Hulk, Elsa, and a wizard read ebooks on our tablets.

It's a magical (and exhausting) day in kindergarten!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Learning About Bats

We've been learning about bats in kindergarten lately.  We have lots of bat books in the classroom, but here are a few of our favorites.

Two of the most important lessons we learn are that we shouldn't be afraid of bats and that if we see a bat, we shouldn't touch it because it might be sick if it's out during the daytime.  We've watched a few short movies about bats that show them in caves and help us see their body parts up close.  Some kids said these books and movies seemed creepy.  When asking them more about their feelings, it turns out that the part that is scary to the kids is the dark.  Obviously, bats come out at night and the night seems scary to kids.  We talked about the good things that bats do for us (eating so many of the annoying bugs) and kids started feeling better about this cool creature.

We also made bats out of Model Magic, with is a clay-like material that dries hard.

We used small pieces to help kids with their fine motor skills.

We used our learning from books and videos to create bats that had the different body parts we had learned about.

Big ears, thin wings... we worked hard on our bats!

Happy learning!

Monday, October 26, 2015

We Need Pressed Leaves

Fall is in full swing and the leaves are showing off a bit.  I really love the beautiful leaves... but who doesn't?  Driving through the mountains this weekend reminded me that it's time to start leaf collecting.   We use leaves in the classroom for math, art, science, and literacy connections.  When I ask kids to bring leaves to the classroom, they are usually GREAT collectors, but the only way we can use these leaves for our projects is when they are pressed.  Pressing leaves is very simple and doesn't take up a lot of space. 

I usually start with a couple of paper towels on the table, and then I set a few leaves on top.

Next, you set a paper towel on top of the leaves and another layer of leaves is set on top of that towel.

I keep layering as many paper towels and leaves as I can, and then put a big stack of books on top.  They need to sit like this for several days so they become dry and flat. Once they are pressed and dry, I store them in an OPEN container or ziploc bag.  There will still be a tiny bit of moisture in the leaves, so you don't want to close them up and grow mold.  That's a science experiment I'd rather not do right now.  

I would love it if each child could collect and press 50 leaves.  We are looking for a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors!  Thanks for your help!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Class Meetings in Kindergarten

I've been teaching for 20 years now and there has never been a year when class meetings did not play a central roll in my classroom environment.  Yes, it takes time out of our week, but it is extremely valuable time that sets the tone for how we work and play together.  

Each morning the kids bring their chairs to the circle.  We usually start with compliments.  Right now, most of the kids say, "I'd like to compliment x,y, and z for being my friend.  As the year goes on, we try to focus on the actions those friends do that make us want to be their friend.  

Class meeting time is also a time to discuss problems in a safe way.  We roll play different scenarios and try to help our friends find ways to solve problems.  A few years ago I had a kindergarten student who was having trouble with another boy at recess.  The student went home and told his mom about the problem.  The mom told him that she would give me a call and talk to me to see if I could fix things.  The little boy responded, "No, mom, that's ok.  We have class meetings and I can bring it up and talk about it with my class."  That, right there, is the whole reason we do class meetings.  Kids are learning how to take ownership, understand when they can solve a problem and when they need help, and learning to have the confidence to ask their peers for support.  It's absolutely fabulous!

Class meetings are also great for introducing vocabulary words like respect, responsibility, persistence, patience, and gratitude.  We learn these words through books, role play, conversation, and music.  My hope is that by building a better foundation for education in the classroom, I am also improving our character education.  

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


One of the things I love the most about kindergarten is that I get to set up a wide variety of experiences for the kids.  I don't simply want to introduce new concepts through books or video, but I want the kids to actually experience new things every day.  I truly believe that the sum of our literacy lives is made up of experiences we all have.  Kids make deeper connections to books about trees when they have had time to experience, learn about, and observe trees.  If a child has been to a pumpkin farm and learned, first hand, how the pumpkins grow then they will be able to make connections to the books about pumpkins that other kids may not be able to make.

The big idea of experiences making up our literacy lives connects to writing as well.  How many times, as a child or even as an adult, have you been assigned to write something and it seems like that blank page is staring you down.  It looks back up at you and you look right back at it, not knowing even where to begin.  Having experiences in the classroom or at home will help kids gain ideas to write about, but also learn to add details to their writing.  Instead of simply drawing a picture of a pumpkin growing in the pumpkin field, kids might draw a mucky farm and show themselves wearing sturdy rain boots.  These are all details that they may add to their picture because it is something they actually experienced, and in turn be able to add to their writing.

The header of my literacy blog is filled with pictures of baking, art, and running through the hay fields.  These may seem like strange pictures to represent the big idea of literacy, but it all comes back to experiences.  Yes, I want my students and my own children to learn to read and write, but the best way to enhance their reading and writing is to provide as many different experiences as possible.  It's all about playful learning and everything we do, each and every day, is bringing us back to learning!

Happy playing, learning, and growing!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Beautiful Mess

We had a painting kind of day on Friday and that is my favorite kind of day in kindergarten.  I love creating a beautiful mess.  I realize that many parents cringe at the idea of painting at home.  I know, it's messy, clean up is horrible, and it can create more stress than it's worth sometimes.  Well, I will happily create messes in my classroom and take on a bit of that chaos for you.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you shouldn't paint at home.  It was truly one of my favorite activities with my kids when they were younger.  Here are a few of my favorite tips and tricks for painting at home with kids:

*Buy a vinyl table cloth at the dollar store and cover your table with it each time you paint.  It won't matter if the kids spill, makes clean up faster, and protects your table.  It will be the best dollar you have ever spent.

*Have a paint box and fill it with water color paints, finger paints, and washable tempra paints.  These are the three easiest to clean.

*Save small jars to store brushes in and use as a water jar.  Having a designated jar for washing brushes is a must.

*Always have baby wipes in your house.  Even if your kids are past the stage of needing wipes, they work perfectly for wiping paint off of hands and wiping a glob of paint off of the floor.

*Paint with your kids.  I always found that my kids focused longer on their piece of art if I was focusing on my piece of art at the same time.  (No, I don't really consider myself an artist, but I tell the kids that we are ALL artists and just need to keep practicing our different forms of art.)

In kindergarten, we create a beautiful mess each and every time we break the paints out.  The kids need this time to explore and let their creativity shine.  I would encourage you to try a few painting days out at home too.  I hope you will see what a beautiful mess you and your child can create together.

Happy painting!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sunflower Seeds

You may have noticed some sunflower seeds coming home in your child's pockets yesterday!  We've been exploring the life cycle of sunflowers and the kids were thrilled to discover the hidden treasures underneath the florets of the sunflowers.  

Our classroom was a mess, but it was learning at its best!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Nature Collections

We read a great book today in Kindergarten that introduced many different items, found in nature, that we see during the Fall.

The book talked about collections of items and I'd like to invite kids to start contributing to our class Nature Collection.  At home, please have your child start collecting things like leaves (please press and dry them between paper towels, with a heavy book on top for a few days), pinecones, twigs, or anything else they find outside and want to collect.  They are welcome to bring these items to class and set them on our nature table.  I can't wait to see how our collection grows!

Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Kindergarten Video

It's only the 12th day of Kindergarten and we have already done so much!

We have been getting to know one another, learning routines, learning the letters of our names and our friends' names, working in our Math Workspaces, and observing apples and sunflowers.  Here's a video (click the underlined words to take you there) that shows a little bit about what is happening in our classroom!

You can also copy and paste this into your browser:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Apple Pie

This week we have been collecting apples.  Thank you very much for sending those to school!  One of the books we read was Amelia Bedilia's First Apple Pie.

When the kids saw that there was a recipe at the end of the book, some of them got very excited!  This might be a great book to find at the local library or bookstore.  

Baking at home is one of my favorite experiences, especially for young children!  It's great for them to experience direction following, reading, math, and hands-on learning.

Here is the link to a kid-sized apple pie activity that I wrote from LeapFrog, if you are interested!

Happy baking!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dot Day

It's International Dot Day!  Kids around the country, and actually all over the world, are celebrating their creativity with this book!

The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds is one of my favorites!  It celebrates creativity, encourages kids to keep trying, and works with imagination.

We made our own dot art in Kindergarten today!

Here is a video of the story, if you are interested!

Happy Dot Day!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Learning Nursery Rhymes in Kindergarten

We have started using Nursery Rhymes during our calendar time.  The first rhyme we are using is Hey Diddle Diddle.  We spend the first several weeks of school using our felt board to tell the rhymes and singing songs that go along with them.  

In addition to being a teacher, I also work part time for LeapFrog (educational toy company) as a writer and photographer.  I write articles, provide activities, and take photos for their Learning Path website.  Last year I wrote an article on the importance of Nursery Rhymes.  Here is the link to the article if you are interested in learning more about the benefits of Nursery Rhymes.

We also read a great book called Cindy Moo, which connects to our Hey Diddle Diddle nursery rhyme.  The kids loved the story and made connections to the nursery rhyme right away.

I hope  you'll share some of your favorite nursery rhymes with your child!

Writing Time!

Writing time is probably my favorite part of the day in a kindergarten classroom.  Right now, I'm modeling how to tell a story about something that has happened to me.  I might tell the kids about watching my daughter's soccer game and how she scored a goal.  I may tell them about seeing a movie with my family, or anything else that has happened in every day life.  

In the picture, below, one of our kindergarten friends is telling me about how excited she was to hold her neighbor's dog.  She is pointing to the person in the picture and telling me that this is a picture of her (the student) sitting down and how the dog that she is holding is so cute.  

The next student is writing about staying home because it was raining outside.

This student was writing about her family.

At the beginning of the school year, we focus on telling a story with a character (usually the person who is writing the story), a setting, and a significant event.  We practice telling the story and carefully drawing a picture to represent the story.  One of the areas I focus on in our mini lessons is using simple shapes to draw pictures.  We really focus on our fine motor skills at this time of the year.  Today, we also started labeling our pictures.  Some kids wrote their name by the character in the story and other kids wrote ME by themselves.  We learned a song to remember how to spell the word me.

You will notice that the pages in our journals have a line on the page.  Very soon, we will begin writing our sentences below the line.  Our illustrations and labels will go above the line and writing will go below.

We are off to a good start and can't wait to see the great work our authors do this year!

Back To School

We're off to a good start!  The kids are learning the routines of school and seem to really enjoy being in Kindergarten at Cascade View.  I'm excited to share things that are going on in our classroom through this blog. Please explore the tabs at the top of the website to learn more about our classroom and early childhood education.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Telling Campfire Stories

Today, we sat around the campfire and I threw out a few story starters.
*We all sitting around the campfire, warming up and making s'mores, when all of a sudden...
*It was breakfast time and we were drinking our hot cocoa when we heard...
*I couldn't believe what happened the day a skunk came to camp.

We told our stories together, asking different kids for ideas.  I would ask questions like, "Then, what happened?" or "What happened next?" or "How did it end?"  These questions led kids to keep going with their ideas and also show how stories have a beginning, middle, and end.

In the end, we wrote some of stories.  The kids had a great time at Camp Read A Lot today!  
(P.S. - I love our new campfire!  Thank you to Mrs. Woods!)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Camp Read A Lot

Welcome to Camp Read A Lot!  We are spending our last few weeks of school in a camping theme and the kids couldn't be more excited!  Today we spend time "reading under the stars" with our flashlights.

Tomorrow we will be taking our books on a "hiking" trip around the school.  Oh, the joy of kindergarten!

If you are interested in an "at home" camping experience, here is a post I wrote for LeapFrog Learning Path:
Home Campout

Happy camping!

Making Lemonade

Oh, how I love cooking in the classroom with my kids!  They were jumping with joy when they walked in the room and saw lemons and a lemon press.  Of course a few kids yelled, "What are we making Teacher?" (Yes, they still call me Teacher, even though it's almost the end of the school year.) I asked them what they thought we should do, and it didn't take long for the suggestion of LEMONADE to come up!

I started by showing them an online book about lemonade that was on Reading Rainbow.  Our school has a subscription to the service, so I can't share the link.  Then, we started squeezing lemons.  We needed 3 cups of lemon juice and all of our lemons made about 1/2 of a cup.  At that point I pulled out the bottled lemon juice and told them that we'd take the easy way out to come up with the rest of the juice.  (Although I think they would have squeezed lemons all day if I would have let them.)

Here is the recipe we used:
2 cups sugar
1 cup hot water
2 cups lemon juice
1 gallon cold water

Dissolve the sugar in hot water.  Add lemon juice and then cold water.  Stir.

We made our lemonade on a very hot and sunny (by Pacific Northwest Standards) day.  The kids were thrilled with the cold treat and really loved sharing with the recess teachers who are outside for most of the day.  

If you are interested in more lemon activities, here is a post I wrote for LeapFrog Learning Path with more ideas.  Lemony Learning Activities

Now, let's hope the sun comes back out so we can enjoy our lemonade on a hot summer day!